COVID Quarantine Rules Bring Down Number of Travelers Through Tel Aviv Airport

The Israel Airports Authority attributes the 50-percent drop to new restrictions, which require returning Israelis from almost every country to quarantine

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People arriving in Ben-Gurion International Airport, in April.
People arriving in Ben-Gurion International Airport, in April.Credit: Hadas Parush

The number of daily travelers going through Ben-Gurion International Airport has decreased by 50 percent since the beginning of August.

According to the Israel Airports Authority, this sharp decline is a byproduct of new rules requiring quarantine upon return from most of the world's countries which went into effect Monday.

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Figures from the government organization showed that in August so far the number of people flying every day out of Ben-Gurion, Israel’s main international airport, was half the number recorded in July. On July 22 and 25, for example, about 24,000 people flew daily to overseas destinations. On August 1, the figure fell to 16,000 and on Monday it was down to approximately 11,000.

The biggest declines were in travel to Greece – from 4,000 on July 22 to no more than a few hundred currently. The United States, which is the most popular destination for Israelis right now, is still seeing 2,000 to 3,000 outbound travelers per day. It appears flyers are less deterred by the quarantine because it is a more distant destination and people are planning longer visits there. Travelers don’t want to give up the tickets they bought, even if it means going into quarantine when they return to Israel.

The list of countries from which Israel requires returning travelers to quarantine has grown longer. The only countries now designated yellow – meaning they are relatively low risk – on Israel’s color-coded scale are Austria, Australia, Hong Kong, Hungary, Taiwan, Moldova, New Zealand, China, Singapore and the Czech Republic. Arrivals from these countries who are vaccinated need to quarantine for only 24 hours, or until they test negative for the coronavirus. The unvaccinated must undergo a full quarantine.

Among those countries, only Hungary, Moldava, the Czech Republic, and Austria don't require arriving Israelis to quarantine.

The moment that the new quarantine rules were issued, Israeli airlines El Al, Arkia and Israir have each added several weekly flights to destinations that don’t require a lengthy isolation.

On Monday, the list of red countries deemed high risk and are barred to all travel by Israelis, except in unusual cases approved by a government committee, contained Bulgaria, Brazil, Georgia, Mexico, Spain and Turkey.

The Israeli Health Ministry’s orange list, which includes all those countries in neither the yellow nor red categories, requires returning travelers to fully quarantine, including people who have been vaccinated or recovered from the coronavirus, no matter what their age.

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